LETHBRIDGE, ALTA — If this had been a normal year, the Tokyo Olympics would already be over, and the Paralympics just wrapping up, but because of COVID, the games have been postponed until 2021.
Lethbridge Paralympic hopeful Lowell Taylor is determined to use the extra time to get stronger and faster, and has been able to get some tandem cycling time with partner Ed Veal.
“It’s giving us a really good opportunity to train together, to ride more,” said Taylor. “So it’s only a benefit to us.”
When the year started Taylor and Veal were gearing up for a busy summer that was scheduled to include races in Portugal, Belgium and Italy. They planned to compete in the World Championships, and secure a spot on the Canadian Paralympic team that would race in Tokyo.
Most events were cancelled due to coronavirus, but Taylor said COVID-19 has provided “the gift of time”.
Veal is a professional cyclist and coach from Hamilton, Ontario. Between travelling to races, working at his business, and trying to get family time, Veal said it has been difficult to arrange a trip to Alberta to spend time riding with Lowell.
But with COVID he was able to travel to Lethbridge this summer, and they’ve made the most of it.
“We’ve done Waterton, we did Banff and Lake Louise, so getting lots of time out on the road,” said Taylor.
The 34-year old psychologist, who is legally blind, said he is cherishing every moment. “Ed opens up the freedom that I get to ride outdoors.”
Because Taylor can’t ride on his own, he spends most of his time on a trailing bike in the garage. “It has been awesome to get out onto real asphalt, real pavement,” added Taylor.
Veal agreed, “To actually get on the bike, and share that together, it is, I don’t know the term, magical? You got to live it.”
The duo is excited by their progress. During one ride Taylor tweeted a shout out to his pilot, after reaching 102.7 kph on their bike, “and living to tell about it.”
Veal said riding in the prairies and mountains of Alberta has been a good change from training indoors during the winter.
“You’re familiar with this wind, I’m not.” He said cycling everyday in 20 or 30 kph wind has been mind blowing, “that makes you stronger, fighting the wind all the time, it feels like you are surrounded.”
Veal said the terrain has also been beneficial. “It’s very hard to simulate those grades and climbing those hills.”
While the gruelling rides and hot days have been challenging, Veal said it hasn’t made him regret his decision to join Taylor on his Paralympic dream. “If anything it’s the opposite. Outside of racing, I’ve learned a lot from Lowell. He pushes me on and off the bike.”
Taylor said it was special to have Veal here and be able to show off the mountains and prairies. “He’s an amazing pilot, and one of the best cyclists in Canada.”
The Paralympic Games are now scheduled to be celebrated from August 24 to September 5, 2021.
With the future in mind, Taylor and Veal have ordered a new race bike that is being built in the U.K. at a cost of about $20,000.
A GoFundMe page (https://ca.gofundme.com/f/help-us-compete-at-the-tokyo-2020-paralympics) has been set up to offset some of the expenses to get to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.